Group supporting local Afghan refugees among 7 awarded CFHZ grants

The Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area (CFHZ) is awarding $125,000 to seven area organizations in the first round of 2022 competitive grants. 

One of the grants is going to Lighthouse Immigrant Advocates to support legal services for newly arrived Afghan refugees who are seeking asylum and resettling in the Holland/Zeeland area.

“We’re seeking to employ innovation, creativity, collaboration, and intense quality to deploy Holland and Zeeland’s community’s greatest export – generous empathy and welcoming culture,” said Eva S. Alexander, executive director of Lighthouse Immigrant Advocates. “By expanding our ability to serve asylum seekers at scale with dignity and expertise, LIA, its supporters, and partners are demonstrating a model of equitable immigration legal services that live up to our community’s capacity for kindness.”

Through the grants, CFHZ directly invests in projects and strategies that support, improve, and enhance the Holland/Zeeland area. Competitive grants are funded through the Community’s Endowment, a  philanthropic resource to meet community needs now and in the future.

“We received a large number of applications for this round of competitive grants,” said Yah-Hanna Jenkins Leys, director of community impact. “There were no easy decisions, as each proposal provided a meaningful opportunity to help all members of the community thrive. We are proud to partner with each of the seven organizations who received grants and help them extend their impact in the community.”

Lighthouse Immigrant Advocates
Program: New Americans Legal Clinic
Amount Awarded: $30,000
Purpose: To provide quality legal services to newly arrived Afghan refugees who are seeking asylum and resettling in the Holland/Zeeland area.
Why this matters: Navigating the asylum process is complex and costly but essential to refugees’ ability to build a stable new life in West Michigan. The rapid end of the United States’ presence in Afghanistan led to a rapid increase in refugees arriving in our area, and this program will help ensure that these individuals and families are equipped to successfully establish themselves in their new home and fully participate in their new community. 

Resilience: Advocates for Ending Violence
Program: Men As Allies 
Amount Awarded: $28,000 
Purpose: To support youth violence prevention programming in Holland/Zeeland area schools and implementation of the Fatherhood Initiative and the Champions of Healthy Manhood training cohorts through the Men as Allies program.
Why this matters: The most recent Youth Assessment Survey data illustrates the need to equip youth with healthy relationship and bystander intervention skills. Among local students who reported having dated in the past 12 months, 15% have been called degrading names by someone they’ve dated and 7% have been hit, slapped, or physically hurt on purpose by someone they’ve dated. In addition, many adults in our community have had Adverse Childhood Experiences related to domestic violence. 17.6% of Ottawa County adults report that during childhood, their parents or adults in their home slapped, hit, kicked, punched, or beat each other up. Engaging boys and men is critical to preventing such relationship violence and increasing awareness and understanding of healthy relationship behaviors. 

Tri-Cities Puentes Initiative
Program: LEADeres Lakeshore
Amount Awarded: $28,000
Purpose: To establish in Ottawa and Muskegon Counties a cohort of the already successful LEADeres Latino-centric leadership program from Ferris State University’s Latino Business and Economic Development Center.
Why this matters: This request would make a well-tested leadership program designed specifically for Latinx leaders in West Michigan available to the Holland/Zeeland community on an ongoing basis.  Economic development partners, area employers, school leaders, and students say there is a need to support and invest in more diverse individuals for leadership across all local sectors who represent the demographics of the community. This program will have a lasting impact for the individuals who participate and the businesses, organizations, and community at large, which will all benefit from their future leadership.

Michigan Fosters
Program: Family Care Coordination Program
Amount Awarded: $14,000
Purpose: To pioneer a creative new way for agencies and organizations within the foster care system to meet the needs of vulnerable children and families by serving as a resource hub for foster families and families with children in foster care.
Why this matters: Children placed in foster care have almost always had one or more adverse childhood experiences. Supporting the foster families caring for these children temporarily and their families of origin as they work towards reunification is critical to ensuring the best possible outcomes for children who have already experienced significant harm. 

Endeavor to Persevere Be Better
Program: Community Engagement Program
Amount Awarded: $10,000
Purpose: To develop and implement a program that has three elements: a psychoeducational series, support groups, and individual and family consultations.
Why this matters: Mental health, particularly for youth, continues to be a leading community concern. Like many communities across the country, the Holland/Zeeland area has seen an increase in youth depression, suicides, and suicide attempts, an issue that is impacting younger and younger students. Timely and accessible mental health care programming has a lasting impact on the individual in need of care as well as their family and friends who seek to support them. The impact of every life lost to suicide is profound and ripples out through family, friends, classmates, and community. There is no “one-size-fits-all” for mental health services, and the Community Engagement Program will bring a new set of options for individuals and families to find the care that best meets their needs. 

Midtown Counseling Services
Program: Healing Arts Program
Amount Awarded: $10,000
Purpose: To outfit, supply and fund staffing of an occupational/art therapy room at the Midtown Counseling Center that will support art and sensory activities for trauma-impacted children and young adults.
Why this matters: Traditional forms of mental health care are not always successful for children, especially those who have experienced trauma. The Healing Arts Program has the potential to reach students for whom other forms of therapy and counseling have not been effective. The connections and opportunity for care and healing the program provides will have a life-changing impact for the students and their families. 

Calvary Reformed Church
Program: Blacktop Rec: Big Blue 2.0
Amount Awarded: $5,000
Purpose: To purchase a school bus which provides transportation for kids during the summer to and from Blacktop Rec. 
Why this matters: Blacktop Rec serves more than 70 youths ages 6 through 12, four days a week throughout the summer. Transportation is a critical component of the program’s effectiveness, and the new bus will help students access Blacktop Rec and enrich the program offerings for many years to come. 

To learn more about CFHZ’s competitive grants program, contact Yah-Hanna Jenkins Leys at


Read more articles by Shandra Martinez.